“Bad teams, no one leads. Average teams, coaches lead. But elite teams, players lead.” —P.J. Fleck, Minnesota Golden Gophers head football coach
At Studer Community Institute, we’re feeling bullish on 2022. While the past couple of years have been tough, we’ve also seen so much growth in organizations across the country—and what we’re consistently noticing is that the most successful ones are the ones whose employees lead the way forward.
I love the above quote from football coach P.J. Fleck. It is so true. The best, highest-performing organizations are made up of employees who are so engaged in their work that they function as unofficial leaders. It doesn’t really matter what title is on their business card—employees who see themselves as “owners” and feel empowered to make informed decisions, guide their peers, and take responsibility for the customer experience create all kinds of growth opportunities.
When you have a company full of employees at every level (including frontline people) who are willing and able to lead, lots of positive things happen. Meeting performance goals gets easier. Customers have better experiences. Employees are happier, more fulfilled, and more likely to feel that their job has meaning. Before long, you’ll find you have developed a culture that attracts and retains the best possible talent.
So, how do you create a company full of leaders? Most employees naturally want to do a good job, and, if asked, most would probably say they’d love to be “players who lead.” The key is making sure they have the tools they need to do their job and do it well. This is why investing in training and development is so incredibly powerful.
I’m not talking only about technical skills training. That’s very important, but it’s really just a starting point. Depending on their role, an employee can reap huge benefits from training in customer service, time management, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, communication, implicit/explicit bias, and more. This is just a tiny sampling of the types of training out there—and all of it has the potential to dramatically boost employee performance.
We all know there’s a lot of opportunity for training, but it’s easy to fall prey to the mantra that there are not enough hours in the day to get the work done, let alone train for new skills, or to get distracted by a crisis or some other “shiny ball” that rolls by. When that happens, T&D kind of falls by the wayside. I get it! No one makes an intentional decision to not invest in people; it just kind of happens. In some cases, leaders may think they can’t afford to train people well. But the truth is, T&D can be very reasonably priced—and it yields a huge return on investment.
Here are a few reasons why T&D creates so much bang for the buck:
It improves employee and organizational performance. Poor performance is often the result of people not fully knowing how to do their job. With employee shortages, we hire quickly or promote employees who are good at their existing job and expect people to jump right into the role. This can be a recipe for disaster.
Training fixes this. Not only does it help people perform at a higher level, but it also improves engagement and brings out their “inner leader.” When all employees are well trained, you’ll have a more consistent, sustainable performance. (We all know consistency and sustainability are the lifeblood of a healthy company!)
It promotes employee well-being. The current workforce is dealing with unprecedented levels of stress as we continue to work through a global pandemic. So many things have changed, and while we’ve been focused on physical survival, most of us have not addressed the mental and emotional toll we’ve been under.
In addition, there’s a lot of stress and anxiety associated with not being able to do your job well. So, at a time when mental health issues are rampant in the workplace, training is especially crucial. People are most likely being asked to do more with less right now. When we make sure they’re equipped to do their best work, and we give people the tools and the confidence to talk about sensitive issues, we go a long way toward creating a culture of belonging and a healthier workplace.
You’ll have less turnover and attract the best talent. Employees feel valued when they’re provided great training. When you invest in people, they’ll invest in you in return. Young people in particular really value development. With training and development as a big part of your culture, you’ll have a competitive advantage, and when word gets around that you invest in people, top talent will be drawn to your company.
It builds a loyal bench of future leaders. When you train and develop people, you’re preparing them for the future. The “unofficial” leaders can be promoted to “official” leaders down the road. And because you’ve already invested in them via training, they will feel a sense of loyalty and will want to stick with you.
We live in a world that increasingly calls for continuous learning. With the future constantly shifting, the nature of business and the skills needed to succeed are ever-evolving. Training is no longer a “one-and-done” proposition but a continuous, ongoing journey of lifelong learning. There is so much opportunity for those who embrace this richer, more exciting way of working and living. When we all commit to learning together, we create stronger, healthier businesses, leaders, employees, and communities.
The Leadership Development branch of the Studer Community Institute is dedicated to providing training and mentorship that narrows skills gaps, develops successful leaders, grows organizations, creates jobs and drives economic development. To learn more about our programs, please visit studeri.org/leadership